Self-Love On The Path To Loving Others

How important is self-love in how we navigate loving others? Turns out - really important!

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Black woman wearing reflective sunglasses and headwrap, smiling off into the distance. The sign "You Are Beautiful" shows in the background.

By Devonae Manderson

Over the past few years, we have lived to witness what has perhaps been the greatest decline in the numbers amassed by romantic movies in the box office. I personally can’t recall any true tear-jerking romantic comedies being released in the past year, and maybe that’s because our generation has accepted that the fairytales that we spent forever hoping to experience didn’t really show us the truth about love.

I spend my days perusing the never-ending lamentations of my peers about their lonely futures on Twitter and most of them, myself included, seem to have one thing in common. We love the idea of loving someone else, but many of us have never truly learned to love ourselves.

I am personally lost in my pursuit for companionship, and though I am intrigued by the idea of being loved and giving love, I can never seem to form a connection with anyone. These days I roll my eyes at anything seemingly-suitable partners utter, while I explain to them why my insecurities won’t allow me to give them a chance. It is quite clear that my reluctance and my overall approach to romantic relationships has been one of simple dismissal.

Despite being set in my ways, it has become exceedingly obvious that the idea we have of love in the year 2018 is nothing short of unhealthy. After all, how can one find love in someone else without first acknowledging and working on the fact that they have simply forgotten how to love themselves.

The Critical Inner Voice

Self-love is a state of appreciation for oneself that grows from actions that support our physical, psychological, and spiritual growth. Throughout our lives, many of us engage in tumultuous relationships with our thoughts and insecurities, allowing us to believe we are undeserving of the love we so truly deserve. Insecurities affect us negatively based on past experiences such as trauma, failure, rejection, and toxic environments and individuals who convinced us that we just weren’t good enough. Despite the facade of confidence that we display on a daily basis, whether on social media or in our physical environments, many of us suffer from the crippling anxiety that latches on to us when our insecurities hit.

According to Dr. Lisa Firestone, co-author of the book, Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, there is an internal dialogue that accompanies our feelings of insecurity. In the book, she wrote, “The critical inner voice is formed out of painful early life experiences in which we witnessed or experienced hurtful attitudes toward us or those close to us. As we grow up, we unconsciously adopt and integrate this pattern of destructive thoughts toward ourselves and others.” This pattern is seen in all aspects of our lives and, whilst in relationships, many of us allow our critical inner voice to dictate how we react to our feelings towards love and intimacy, often causing us to become destructive forces to ourselves and our partners. The critical inner voice can cause us to pull back when things start to get serious or push us to exaggerate feelings of jealousy or possessiveness all whilst leaving us with feelings of rejection and unworthiness.

Affirming Self Love

The battle with my insecurities started at a very young age. I was always too dark, too loud, too skinny, and then later in my life, too fat. I would constantly tell myself that I was undeserving of love, whether platonic or romantic. Growing up in Jamaica as a young dark-skinned woman only served to teach me one thing – this society was filled with a large percentage of dark-skinned individuals who were lacking in love for the skin they were in. Soon enough, I began to fit myself into the mold that was forced onto me of the loud, black, Jamaican woman, inferior to the typical image of the Jamaican women idolized on social media.

My battle with anxiety only intensified and exacerbated my struggle with being able to love myself. Subsequently, I found myself unable to love all the same. Even now I am unable to build lasting relationships with friends or partners because, at some point in all my relationships, I somehow convince myself that these people will soon realize my flaws and they’ll be gone as quickly as they came. My journey, however, is one that will hopefully take me on a path where I am more accepting of myself as I am, more willing to learn self-appreciation, and less critical of myself and the parts of me that make me insecure.  

Learning How to Love (Me) Again

The journey to losing insecurities and gaining a new outlook on the boundless amounts of love you deserve may be a long one. However, it is a journey worth taking and one that can only lead to personal gratification and fulfillment. My go-to list of self-love tips is one by Deborah Khoshaba Psy.D. called The Seven Step Prescription for Self-Love summarized as follows:

  1. Become mindful: Know what you think, feel, and want. Be mindful of who you are and not what others think you are.
  2. Act on what you need rather than what you want: Self-love is saying no to destructive behaviors and bad habits no matter how comfortable you are doing them.
  3. Practice good self-care: Take care of your basic physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs. Eat well, exercise, get some rest, and engage in healthy social interactions.
  4. Set boundaries: Give yourself a limit. Know when to say no to work, love, or activities that deplete or harm you physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
  5. Protect yourself: Be mindful of the negative energies and individuals that situate themselves in your life. Better yet, get rid of them!
  6. Forgive yourself: We tend to be so very hard on ourselves. Accept that you are human and imperfectly perfect. Practice being less hard on yourself when you make a mistake. Note: There is no such thing as failure, only lessons learned.
  7. Live intentionally: Live each moment true to your purpose. Your purpose doesn’t have to be crystal clear to you at the moment but if your intention is to live a meaningful and healthy life, you will make decisions that support this intention, and feel good about yourself when you succeed in this.

Remember self-love is not being selfish. It is not being boastful or narcissistic. It is being kind to yourself after not being able to know kindness. It is empowering you by doing whatever makes you feel good, despite the noise from the crowd. It is housekeeping for the soul and adding new love songs to the playlist you have long begun to make for yourself. It is, in its essence, finding and knowing peace within yourself because after all, “Only if you find peace within yourself will you find a true connection with others”

This article was originally published on Witted Roots.

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